Backlash Over Healthy School Lunch Changes


By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

FRANKLIN CO. --  Local schools are adjusting their lunch menus to meet new health guidelines. However, the national program is facing major backlash.

The federal government's updated rules for lunches took effect during the 2012-2013 school year. For a lot of schools, those changes are hard to swallow.
Students complained about the food choices, and some districts struggled to find the healthy ingredients. A government report found that more than a million kids stopped buying school lunch after the new rules were officially launched.
Later this week, a U.S. House committee is expected to vote on a plan that would let some districts drop out of the program. The schools would be eligible if their sales have dropped for six months.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been a key supporter of the program.
"We all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids," said Obama.
On Tuesday, she spoke against critics looking to rollback the changes.
"The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health," said Obama. 
The standards dictate everything from the types of grain to the amount of calories in a meal. Since they've been phased in, there have been complaints about the cost and the taste.
Still, the USDA found that 90 percent of school districts, like Zeigler-Royalton, are in compliance.
"The best meals kids get are here for a lot of our kids," said Zeigler-Royalton Superintendent George Wilkerson. 
More than 60 percent of students at the Franklin County district are part of the free and reduced lunch program. That funding is a big incentive to stay with the program. 
"We're more than willing to follow, to accommodate whatever they want us to do," said Wilkerson.
Cafeteria cooks had to switch up some of the favorite recipes and added more whole grains and veggies. Wilkerson says finding the healthier ingredients hasn't been too difficult.
"Our vendors accommodate us very well," said Wilkerson. 
Overall, he feels the students and the staff are adjusting well to the changes, other than a normal amount of grumbling.
"That's gone back to when I was a kid, too," said Wilkerson. "They're always going to complain. You could probably put filet mignon on there, and they would complain about it."  
Wilkerson believes if there's one change that needs to be made, it would be the calorie restriction for high school meals. He's received complaints from parents that teens aren't getting full from the new meals. 
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